Look abroad for best education practice
SIR – In the light of the dismal report published by Professor David Reynolds, the Welsh Government senior policy adviser, may I suggest that both he and the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews get out more (“Exam results prove that Wales is falling behind, says professor”, Aug 27).
As someone who has both visited and observed and taught lessons in schools in South-East Asia, India, Africa and the Middle East in the last 15 years, it is with alarm that I read his report but also with little surprise given what I have observed as a practising teacher throughout Wales. Only last week I was in awe of the standards at schools in Estonia, compared to those in Wales and the UK, a small country with half our population and yet with a ranking close to the top in the three Pisa areas.
To emulate these standards, there must first of all be much more emphasis on knowledge over skills; our pupils in Wales know very little compared to their counterparts overseas and can easily progress to university without having read a book. Secondly, choice must be limited, so that for example hairdressing isn’t offered as a choice in preference to learning a foreign language, whereas in Estonia again a pupil leaves school having mastered at least three languages fluently.
Thirdly, there must be a return to more traditional and effective teaching methods. whereas here teachers are exhorted by “agencies” to do cartwheels and headstands at the beginning and end of lessons to engage their pupils, in overseas schools they are challenged intellectually with text books. one science lesson I observed in Singapore for 15 year olds was more demanding than the equivalent A-level lesson here.
In the home, it behoves us all to put much greater value on education. Schools must exhort parents and their children to forsake the celebrity culture and wean them off time-wasting activities like Facebook and to encourage instead the reading of books. it is a sad reflection that whenever I visit a pupil’s home these days the plasma screen is visible but there isn’t a book to be seen, not even on the coffee table.
Yes, Mr Reynolds, nothing short of a revolution, a national movement, is required to invigorate our pupils and restore standards. it is there to be seen if you travel.
SIR – I hope there will be at least a full page response to your distinguished wind turbine advocates (“The debate about landscape versus wind power is important”, Aug 26).
The letters page cannot match up to the serious flaws in their argument, or cover important points they ignore. They give the impression of living a long way from the communities they’d like to be more accepting of this technology: yet Wales is a small country.
If they’d like to discover why some people, broadly in favour of renewables, are shocked when industrial turbines get going in local fields, we invite them to visit Gwyddgrug, Carmarthenshire.
Unfortunately, “civil conversation,” as suggested by the advocates, cannot cover the deep divisions caused by the subsidised promotion of this expensive, wasteful technology.
Conversation doesn’t alter the fact that when they are working, the noise of wind turbines frequently disturbs the sleep and equanimity of people living nearby.
The figure of 25% may be a reasonable output for this technology: conversation cannot alter the fact that this 25% can come anytime.
If the wind blows when the grid can’t use more power, companies are paid to turn the machines off and produce nothing.
Is there still a chance for proper political debate in Wales on this important matter? or has the government in Cardiff successfully pre-empted such debate by its refusal to re-consider Tan 8?
SIR – I am writing on behalf of the Save Swansea Coastguard campaign, urging your readers to support our petition to stop the closure of the Swansea Maritime Rescue Station, in order to keep the waters of the Bristol Channel safe.
As part of a review announced by the UK Government, the station is due to close by 2015.
The Swansea station safeguards many pleasure crafts and public water users from its position in the very centre of the Bristol Channel and also accounts for the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cargo operating through the commercial ports of Swansea, Port Talbot, Barry, Cardiff, Newport, Gloucester, Bristol and Avonmouth.
In order to keep the station open and maintain the safety of our waters, an official Save Swansea Coastguard petition has been set up at www .saveswanseacoastguard.co.uk
We are urging members of the public spanning across South Wales and North Devon to sign the petition and help us to get to our target of 100,000 signatures to take to Downing Street on September 12.
This decision made by the Government is ill-judged – the facts speak for themselves as Swansea Coastguard saw to over 2,000 incidents in 2010 alone, making it the second busiest station in the UK.
We have seen an overwhelming response in the number of people wishing to support the cause. However, we desperately need more signatures so we would urge anyone who has yet to sign the petition to do so.
Campaign co-ordinator, Save Swansea Coastguard
SIR – a meeting has been organised concerning the proposed changes in services provided by Vale of Glamorgan Council from the Gardenhurst Resource Centre in Penarth.
This meeting will take place at the Kymin on Beach Road, Penarth, at 7pm on September 7.
There will be two aspects to the proceedings.
First, with other objectors we would like to collect information about the amount of consultation that took place, the answers that objectors were given, and what advice they were given about future possibilities.
Such information must be recorded for possible future action because there is such confusion about how people were told or not told.
Councillor Janice Birch was told in Vale Council scrutiny meetings that nothing would be changing at Gardenhurst until September, that only two people had objected to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s decision about the house, and that all necessary bodies had been consulted.
Subsequently this was cast into doubt and Gardenhurst campaigner Sue Phillips has collected a great deal of useful evidence.
But we don’t want to spend too much time in regret and recrimination.
We want all ideas that people have about a replacement provision for older people to bring them to the meeting. we are looking for possible premises, possible providers and volunteers who are willing to give up time and effort to offering alternatives to the activities that took place in Gardenhurst and Rondel House. perhaps we may improve on those provisions.
We are looking for people who understand that a programme of regular activities, an expectation of friendly company, chat and perhaps a timetable of sociable meals together may make a tremendous difference to someone who may be alone for most of the week.
It is the best kind of measure to combat depression and provide well-being.
More fun in fact; indeed, as councillor Mark Wilson said at a recent Vale scrutiny meeting, more provision of a drop-in service is the way forward and this may reduce the likelihood of long-term residential care. By doing so, this could actually save the Vale Council money in the longer term.
If you are interested, please remember to come to the Kymin, Beach Road, Penarth, at 7pm on September 7 and have your say.
JANICE BIRCH AND MARK WILSON
Councillors, Vale of Glamorgan Council
S4C and the law
SIR – with reference to Barry Taylor’s letter (Aug 26), unless S4C specifically asked Jamie Bevan and Cymdeithas yr laith Gymraeg to engage in a criminal campaign on their behalf, they had every reason not to “support” him when the due process of the law was carried out in Cardiff Magistrates’ Court.
The opposite is more likely to be the case, as any organisation seeking public financing would likely be averse to being associated with those who choose to take the law into their own hands.
Pension comes last
SIR – as one of the 1.4 million people over 50 with no extra pension provision I’m not surprised at the figures (“more than a third of Britons are not saving for a pension”, Aug 22).
When a third of over 50s are looking for work and unable to obtain even minimum wage posts, it goes without saying that saving any money for retirement is not an option and along with many younger people in and out of low paid jobs there just isn’t any spare cash.
While the minimum wage is still taxed the Government is also being totally unrealistic in expecting any improvement in pension fund take ups.
SIR – having carefully packed our suitcases, we all know that when we arrive our belongings will be in some disarray; so I have been attempting for some time to find a company that markets or would consider producing (blow-up) airbags to fill the void in a suitcase to hold its contents in place.
I have tried all the well known suitcase manufacturers, packaging and inflatable product companies and but so far no one seems interested.
The bag would need to be approximately 75cm x 50cm (30” x 20”), easily inflated and deflated. Is there anyone out there who could advise?